Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Hunting Island State Park

Yesterday I took my students to Hunting Island State Park near Beaufort, SC. It is BEAUTIFUL - except for the mosquitoes. It is ridiculously warm for October - even for SC (in the 80's and VERY muggy), and the bugs just won't let go.

We were there to look at the various ecosystems on a barrier island, and had a ball. It was perfect for a bridge between our landforms unit, and our ecosystems unit. These will look similar to my June post about Bull's Island, but I AM a Master Naturalist ya know.
My class started with a hike down a trail in the maritime forest.... you know..... where mosquitoes live. We learned about the three trees found there -Slash pine trees, Live Oak (with Spanish Moss - very southern, and always breath-takingly gorgeous)

and Palmetto trees - except they are really cabbage palms, and according to our ranger, not a tree. What? I need to look it up, but he told us it was a member of the grass family as evidenced by the sponginess, resilient, bounce back sort of thing it does. Hmmmm. really need to google that. The kids were spectacular and told the ranger all about how they became the state tree because when Fort Moultrie was being bombarded the cannon balls would sort of bounce off the logs of the Fort made of the Cabbage Palmetto, and since the trees are springy/spongy they wouldn't explode, so SC was able to repel the British.
We continued our walk along the path and he pointed out the mounds (brown in the photo below) that are ancient sand dunes (stay off them at the beach) and explained how they protect the island/inner forest from the salt water/spray. It really fit in with the whole weathering/erosion thing we've been teaching about dunes.
We saw foxfeather, GIANT banana spiders, and little crabs in the forest- the kids were very surprised by that. We were definitely walking quickly because the mosquitoes were obviously feasting on us for lunch, despite the DEET we were wearing, but the end of the trail was absolute HEAVEN.

We got toward the end of the trail and it started thinning out (trees don't like to drink saltwater so the trees were getting that "boneyard" look).
And since Hunting Island is a barrier island, the northern part is generally eroded by the ocean, and then the longshore current takes it and moves it around to the south end, and our trail abruptly ended at the ocean in trees. The students were absolutely enthralled. We had great discussions about the longshore current, as well as how the salinity affects the trees, and why there isn't a sandy beach on that part of the island.
I'll try to post more pics soon about the ocean and the marsh. Blogger is taking a long time with uploading pics tonight. Enjoy.

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